Social interaction is part of being a happy, healthy human being. But all too often, we get caught up with family and work. We forget to go outside and get connected to our neighbors.

Wish it were easier to start getting out and about? Sometimes you have to decide on an activity and commit to going regularly. Adding it to your schedule makes it harder to bail.

From making friends in a new hobby to volunteering at local events, try these suggestions as a way to be more connected to your community.

Start a new hobby

Rather than trying to pick up something by yourself, start with a group class. You’ll learn the basics and meet others with the same interests.

Bring out your inner Picasso at a painting class: Get in touch with your creative side and sign up for a beginning art class. There are even some that serve wine while you paint. Check out your local community center and see what they have to offer.

Feel like Rachael Ray at a cooking class: Learn some new cooking skills that you can directly apply to your kitchen. Plus, you’ll have a lot of new friends who need someone to eat the food they’re practicing on.

Become a teacher yourself: If you already have a hobby, chances are you’ve heard your friends say they wish they could do that, too. Why not invite them to join and help them get started?

Take a group exercise class

Nothing encourages bonding like pushing yourself to the limit. In a group exercise class you have built-in exercise buddies for plenty of motivation.

Boogie in a dance class: The best part about dance is that it doesn’t feel like exercise. Choose from the classic Zumba classes to ballroom dance. Most classes don’t require a partner, so you can just walk in.

Keep moving with a walking group: Whether you join an existing group or set up your own, you’re sure to meet your step count with walking on your schedule every week.

Cool off in aqua aerobics: Aqua aerobics is group exercise that people of all fitness levels can enjoy. It is particularly suited to those of us who want to protect our joints.

Volunteer

Volunteering at a local organization or nonprofit is one of the best ways to connect with your community. Give back and make a difference to your favorite causes.

Become a mentor: As a mentor, you will be matched with a young mentee. You will be the person they know they can come to for companionship and advice.

Volunteer at an animal shelter: Animal lovers, look into how you can help out at your local animal shelter. From helping at fundraisers to spending time with the animals themselves, shelters are often looking for volunteers.

Help at a food bank: By volunteering at a local food bank, you can help out the less fortunate who are always in need. Help with services like food drives, sorting and work experience programs.

Local Outings

Arizona is full of special gatherings that take place all year. Look at your local community calendar and sign up for your neighborhood newsletter. You never know what special event will catch your interest.

Attend a farmers market: Help your local economy and farmers by buying some local food, flowers and other goods. Enjoy the local atmosphere and get to know the people who make what they sell.

Go to an art and wine festival: Socialize over wine, arts and crafts, food and music. You will find local vendors and artists who gather to sell their unique creations.

Join a book club: Reading doesn’t have to be an entirely solitary activity. Find or make a local book club where you can gather to talk with other bibliophiles about your latest reads.

You can find the organizations, groups and activities that will help you connect with the Valley’s Jewish community in the Jewish News’ 2018 Annual Community Directory, publishing on Sept. 13. The directory will also be available online. JN

Tracy Layden is a certified aging in place specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently.

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